After having to wait 13 hours at a petrol station in Sidwell, Port Elizabeth, on Wednesday morning, the children were driven through the night and arrived late for the opening ceremony on Friday.
They were forced to compete after stepping off the bus .
Raynard Paterson, the team’s former coach, who was recently fired, said yesterday: “These children could not perform – they literally got off the bus and went to the racetrack – and they were exhausted. If you look at the times they ran, they were so slow.”
One of the province’s top athletes, Inke Steyn, who was favoured to win a medal, was unable to compete after an administrative bungle left her name off the starting list though she had qualified for her race.
Though the athletes who had travelled to the championships in private transport made it to the opening ceremony, they were forced to take part in plain clothes because their team uniforms were not ready.
When the tracksuits were eventually handed out – reportedly on a pavement at the side of a road – most of the sizes were incorrect. Eastern Province was the only team whose tracksuits and gear did not bear the official emblem.
Johan Olivier, whose daughter participated, slammed Eastern Province Athletics and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the organisers.
“All of this mess had a very negative effect on their performance. These are dedicated and motivated children who practised very hard to get to where they are.
“How can one expect the athletes to perform when the managing body cannot even get the basics right,” Olivier said.
“It’s disgusting. The entire thing is such a disgrace. These kids are being disgracefully looked after.”
Olivier said his daughter, a 15-year old 1.5m-tall pupil, was given XXL T-shirts and an XL tracksuit.
Accommodation for the athletes had not been arranged and athletes complained that their lunch packs were not sufficient.
Another parent said: “When the children arrived they discovered that adequate arrangements for accommodation had not been made. After a mad rush and driving around for more than three hours, they eventually found accommodation.”
The children’s lunch packs are said to have consisted of two slices of dry bread.
Officials at SA Schools Athletics were not available for comment.
Eastern Cape sport, recreation, arts and culture spokesman Manzi Vabaza said the dinner was provided by the venue at which the pupils were accommodated and the department outsourced the services of a caterer to supply lunch packs to the team.
Vabaza said that the allegation “that children received [only] two slices of dry bread was untrue”.
He said that the department was aware that the portion of chicken or fish was missing from the first lunch, but it had raised the issue with the caterer and it had been rectified.
The process of procuring transport, accommodation and meals is based on the tender system, said Vabaza.
“In this case, the first person who won the tender withdrew and we made use of the one who was in second position.
“This service provider travelled in person to Johannesburg to arrange accommodation,” Vabaza said.
The bungle is similar to last year’s chaos at the Eastern Cape schools athletics championships in East London at which parents accused officials of being “more interested in eating than in doing their job”.
Eastern Province Athletics organiser William van der Riet was not available for comment.